Developing a Retreat Theme

After you have selected a retreat center, you need to begin thinking about programming and the retreat theme. There are a few different options in developing a retreat theme. One method is to hire a speaker; this is probably the most expensive but is the least time consuming for you. There are many different speakers bureau’s that have very effective communicators.  One way to handle the cost is to build the cost into your budget. To reduce the cost is to exchange speaking with another youth pastor in your area. I have known youth pastors who are talented worship leaders and offered to lead worship at another church’s retreat in exchange for having their youth pastor speak at their own retreat. Just be sure that you are both in full agreement to the exchange and that all the details of the exchange is fully understand by both parties.  Another way to reduce the cost is find an area youth director who is trying to develop their speaking talent; they will likely cost less and it will be great to help give them experience. Another way to develop a program is simply do it yourself; this is probably the least expensive however is somewhat time consuming (if you are a procrastinator like me, you may be writing youth talks Thursday night before your retreat). The final way to develop a theme is as a youth team. This is the greatest time investment but can offer the greatest reward. It is a great way to display trust and empower your youth leaders. After you have selected the format there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. It is important to begin you’re theme selection with prayer.
  2. Focus on the needs of the students. A weekend retreat is one the longest periods of time you will have with your students. So focus on their needs and specifically what will help them to grow.
  3. Be creative! Retreats are an opportunities to introduce creative elements into your ministry. You have a great opportunity to experiment with many different and innovative activities. Take some time to utilize prayer stations, group prayers, prayer labyrinths or whatever creative element you can come up with. A few years ago on a retreat our theme was “Carry your Cross”. I had my students interns build about thirty crosses that stood six-foot tall and on Saturday evening the students were invited to literally pick up their cross and follow Jesus. The students carried their cross to a bonfire about a quarter mile away where we had worship around the bonfire. This was a lot of extra work but it really enhanced the weekend and created a memory that will last these students their lifetime.
  4. Build the retreat into your teaching arc. It can really enhance your retreat when you lead up to a retreat by teaching a few lessons before the retreat.
  5. Track stories that you have used and save any material you develop. This weekend I am leading my thirtieth retreat for my church. One of the things I didn’t do for the first few years was to keep records of everything I taught, I have regretted this ever since.

So get out there and begin developing your retreat theme!  Next week we are going to take a deeper look at those creative elements you can incorporate to enhance your retreat.

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